I am afraid that in many American churches, we are not telling the truth—at least not the whole truth.

In many churches we assume that once you accept Jesus as your Savior, you get involved in church and your life gets better. This is the standard story repeated in "testimony time" on Sundays, and the unspoken assumption regarding discipleship.

This "narrative of ascendency" has become the dominant American narrative of the gospel, rooted in American optimism and confidence. It is beautiful, compelling, and powerful. But is it the whole truth?

The church in America has struggled to embrace an equally true "narrative of descendency," the part of the gospel that is grounded in the One who descended into the depths of human darkness, and who calls us to face our particular and ongoing struggle with our own darkness.

We avoid this part of the story. We want a new life without a death. We want to ascend to Heaven before we descend into hell.

But ...

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